Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What’s New in Tech

Tesla opens patents to rivals

Tesla Motors is making its patents public, said Wayne Cunningham in “In a move calculated to boost the electric vehicle industry,” Tesla will start making all of its patented technology available to all carmakers to encourage other manufacturers to join the emerging electric car market. Competitors could quickly seize on Tesla’s battery technology, which uses “multiple small cells, along with power control software, to prevent thermal overruns.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he also envisions making the company’s “Supercharger” network of charging stations available to other car makes. That could pave the way for competitors to build Supercharger facilities of their own and lead to the adoption of universal car-charging standards.

Court weighs social media threats

Be careful what you post on Facebook, said Richard Wolf in USA Today. The Supreme Court agreed this week to hear a case involving a Facebook user who posted threats of violence aimed at his estranged wife. Two lower courts have already ruled that such activity is criminal. Deciding to hear the case is an about-face for the high court, which last year refused a petition concerning a man who posted threats on YouTube to kill the judge in his child custody case. Lawyers for the current petitioner say their client never intended to harm his wife. They are invoking his First Amendment right to free speech and calling for narrower standards for vetting online threats because such communications are “inherently susceptible to misinterpretation.”

FCC probes peering agreements

Regulators are weighing in on Internet streaming disputes, said Jim Puzzanghera in The Federal Communications Commission announced last week that it has launched a probe into whether Internet service providers, such as Comcast and Verizon, are impeding video streaming services like Netflix. “The bottom line is that consumers need to understand what is occurring when the Internet service they’ve paid for does not adequately deliver the content they desire,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. So-called peering agreements deal with content providers, such as Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube, that pay ISPs to deliver their data to end users. Consumer advocates have criticized these arrangements, arguing that broadband providers can extort tolls from content providers, resulting in higher costs for consumers.

Innovation of the week

If you’re trying to be a better driver, there’s an app for that, said Angela Moscaritolo in PCMag .com. The startup Automatic rolled out a version of its driving-assistant app, featuring two new safety functions. The first, called Crash Alert, allows the app to detect serious collisions and alert local authorities. The new version also boasts an Android-exclusive Do Not Disturb feature, which allows drivers to silence incoming calls, texts, and notifications while they’re on the road. The app pairs with a $100 accessory called Automatic Link, “which plugs into your car’s data port to learn your driving style and give you audio cues to help you drive more efficiently and save money on gas.” The system, which is compatible with iOS and Android 4.0, claims to work with most “gasoline cars sold in the U.S. since 1996.”

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